President Obama was at pains to express his devotion to the U.S.-Israel alliance during a webcast conversation with the Jewish community broadcast by the Jewish Federations of North America today. But amid the bromides about his administration and the Jewish community being part of one big pro-Israel family, was the sort of hypocrisy and misleading arguments that we have come to expect from the president during the course of the debate about his nuclear deal with Iran. The hypocrisy stems from his whining about the nastiness of the pact’s critics while at the same time being unwilling to own up to the toxic tone and insults that he has employed to pressure Congress to back the deal. But as insufferable as that may be, the real problem remains the disingenuous spin he uses to defend a deal that failed to achieve the objective that he set for the negotiations when they began: end the nuclear threat from Iran. Obama claims to be only arguing from facts but at the core of his spin are two indefensible notions: a dismissal of the concerns of Israel and its friends as being “visceral” rather than his supposedly rational stand and a refusal to acknowledge that Iran is not planning to change and that the deal doesn’t give the U.S. the ability to do much to stop it from getting a bomb when the deal expires.
The president and his team were badly outfoxed in the negotiations by the Iranians. At every point when they refused his demands, he gave in demonstrating his desperation for a deal at virtually any price. But his skill at politics is unmatched as his chutzpah. Thus although the ostensible purpose of the webcast was to soothe relations with an angry and divided Jewish community, Obama stuck to his talking points and refused even to acknowledge that he is even partially responsible for injecting a toxic tone into the debate while delegitimizing his critics.
Perhaps it was too much to ask of federation leaders to ask him a pointed question about the way he sought to smear the deal’s critics as a powerful “lobby” that was using “big money” to oppose him in the same terms that earned President George H.W. Bush universal opprobrium when he challenged AIPAC in 1991. But when they asked him a more anodyne question about what could be done to heal the wounds from the debate that he has poured salt on, the president responded with self-righteousness and hypocrisy rather than conciliation.
Obama falsely claimed there was no moral equivalency between the administration’s efforts to delegitimize its critics with the admittedly bitter and nasty pushback they’ve gotten from some on the other side. In particular, he complained about some harsh rhetoric aimed at the deal supporters like Rep. Jerry Nadler. But are a few random powerless citizens insulting a congressman really worse than a president claiming his opponents are warmongers who make common cause with Iranian extremists or are mindless partisans?
The president’s trademark sophistry was on display when in one sentence he claimed he had never called anyone a warmonger but then in the next went on to falsely claim that the only alternative to his policies was war. Though he claims that he only argues from logic, his dismissal of the claim that tougher sanctions had the potential to get a better deal was completely illogical. After all, Obama opposed the sanctions that brought Iran to the table. Just as the world was forced to reluctantly follow the U.S. on the issue before, they could do so again.
Also hypocritical were his promises to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge over its opponents. Its not a secret that he has tried to bribe Israel to stop criticizing the Iran deal with more arms. But the deal undercuts the entire concept of a qualitative edge since allowing Iran to become a threshold nuclear power as well as enriching it by ending sanctions changes the balance of power in the region.
He completely ignores the way his agreement destabilizes the region and while claiming to be sober-minded about the nature of the Iranian regime. At the heart of his arguments remains the same problem that is the foundation of the deal: a belief that Iran is changing.
But most worrisome of all is the president’s misleading arguments about what the deal will accomplish. He claims the deal will create inspections in perpetuity and that the U.S. will be in as strong a position to deal with the threat after it expires in 15 years. But in order to do that he has to ignore the way the deal will not only strengthen Iran’s nuclear project but also the regime itself while also undermining the West’s will to resist it.
As for the threat of Iranian-backed terrorism, the president pooh-poohed Tehran’s capacity to spread terror throughout the region, especially after it gets $100 billion in unfrozen funds. That shows he doesn’t take seriously the way Iran funds Hamas and Hezbollah terror. As he spoke, Hamas crews working with Iranian aid were digging tunnels under Israel’s border and preparing rockets for the next attacks. But these are irrelevant to Obama’s big vision of Iran “getting right with the world.” He claimed that while the deal didn’t address Iran’s role as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism but that it also wouldn’t stop the U.S. from combating them. The problem with that is that Obama has consistently failed to curb Iranian adventurism and is, instead, partnering with the regime in Iraq.
Obama adopted a different tone about Iran’s future with a Jewish audience than he usually does. But even though he claimed to have no illusions about Iran, he repeated his dismissal of Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as “just a politician,” rather than a tyrannical, anti-Semitic theocrat whose threats at the West and Israel deserve to be taken seriously. While he says he understands Iran, it’s clear his belief in détente with the regime is the key to understanding his acceptance of a weak deal that will let it do as it likes when it expires.
Just as offensive was his attempt to demonstrate understanding of his critics. He called Israeli worries about Iranian threats “visceral” to be contrasted his supposedly purely rational arguments. Though he claimed to want reconciliation, the only thing that came through clearly in this webcast was his arrogance and unwillingness to demonstrate respect for opposing views. It is that quality that caused him never to question his policies even as he made concession after concession to Iran.
This is a president whose policies have shown that he is obsessed with downgrading the alliance with Israel while reaching out to its most vicious foes. If Obama were capable of listening to his critics rather than dismissing him, we might not be embroiled in the current nasty debate. If, as is likely, the deal proves to be a windfall for Iran and a strategic defeat for the West, it is that failing that was so clearly on display today that will be responsible for it.